Ingrid Avila has been separated from her family for years.
Her parents brought her to South Florida when she was 9 years old. The family members overstayed their visas and immigration officers one day sent her brother and parents from Miami back to their native Cali, Colombia but she remained in the U.S. alone illegally – until Wednesday, when she got her green card.
"That little bit of hope that I had just helped me through all this," she said.
Avila was eventually detained and was about to be sent back to Colombia too.
She said it was very difficult for her.
"I was thinking my gosh – it’s over," she said.
She was held in a solitary room awaiting deportation, before the facility released her without explanation. She then spent several years going through the immigration courts before the resolution to her case Wednesday.
Immigration attorney Mayra Joli said there are two ways to get an exception from the government for minors living in the country illegally. Immigration officials have it within their authority to use their discretion and decide not to go forward and bring the case to an immigration judge in the building here behind me. And, even after an order comes officials can defer and inform the person that they won't be picked up for a certain amount of time.
Deferred action can be based on different circumstances and there’s nothing written as to what is the guidance.
Joli said these factors generally can increase your chances of an exception. Don’t get arrested, develop a list of achievements, have a family member in the military, be a force in you community, and have jobs, schooling, and friends who support you.
"I'm so happy I can’t even believe it. I am shaking right now," Avila said after getting her green card.
She received it before Judge Denise Lane.
"We need to fight and never give up because if it can happen for me it can happen for them," Avila said.